Political instability in Venezuela had been simmering for over two years as the country reeled from an economic and humanitarian crisis spurred by plummeting commodity prices and bad economic policies that lead to massive hyperinflation, hunger, unemployment and the biggest refugee crisis in the Western Hemisphere. Last Wednesday, those tensions exploded when National Assembly president, Juan Guaido, in front of thousands of anti-government protesters declared himself interim president of the country, according to the Constitution, until free and fair elections could take place. The last general election was last May, when Maduro won in a contest widely condemned to be fraudulent, corrupt and illegitimate.
Following a meeting with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres yesterday in New York, a release from the Office of the Prime Minister stated that Rowley journeyed to the UN as a member of a Caricom delegation led by Dr Timothy Harris, Caricom chairman and Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis.
The delegation also included Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Caricom’s Secretary General Irwin LaRocque, and Ambassador for Trinidad and Tobago to the UN Pennelope Beckles.
Following the meeting intended to work out a strategy to lessen political tensions in Venezuela, peace and security in Venezuela and the wider region is now a real possibility.
“The meeting was useful and productive. We are very satisfied that at the appropriate moment the good offices of this UN would and could bring about some significant preparation of a road map for peace and security for Venezuela and the region,” Prime Minister Dr Rowley, who was part of the Caricom delegation, said in a recorded statement posted to the Office of the Prime Minister’s official social media accounts.
Caricom has maintained its position of non-interference and non-intervention in the affairs of sovereign states, but has offered to be a mediator to Venezuela, and agreed to call on the UN to assist in de-escalating tensions.
Since the fall-out on Wednesday, there has been a push by the United States, especially, to get countries to support Guaido.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an address to the OAS on Thursday, made a strong call for all members of the OAS to disavow Maduro’s presidency as illegitimate, morally bankrupt, economically incompetent and corrupt, a call he echoed during an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Saturday.
The US also yesterday announced sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA. PDVSA is the commercial entity currently engaging T&T and Shell as partners for the monetization of gas from Venezuela’s Dragon gas field.
The US said it would block the Maduro administration from accessing up to US$18 billion in assets, as well as any proceeds from Citgo, PDVSA’s retail chain, which will be locked away, until a democratically elected government can be put in place to reduce corruption and return these assets to the people of the country. This is the first time the US has taken a firm step to introduce direct trade sanctions.
Previously only key members of the administration and their close family members were blocked.
UWI International Relations Institute shares their view…
The UWI International Relations Institute has said that the geopolitical and economic spaces of Caricom states make them particularly vulnerable to fallouts from regional political tensions.
The question, though, is how long the Maduro administration remains and is Caricom prepared for the real possibility of impending change.
The US too, is a very important power for Caribbean countries but it is just one interested actor, so Caricom will need to consider other international actors who are important partners.
“Small states necessarily must consider their economic and political interests before pronouncing on regional political affairs. It is unlikely that Caricom is unaware of the human rights issues in Venezuela, but there are also important economic and geopolitical concerns,” the IIR said.
Most reassuringly, though, the Institute did not think war was on the horizon because military intervention by states in Venezuela will in principle, require a UN Security Council resolution, which is unlikely since a Security Council vote must be unanimous and China and Russia already have indicated their unwillingness to intervene. Regarding civil war and instability – Venezuela has been very unstable for many years now and Caribbean states have already experienced the economic and social consequences.
“It is in Caricom’s interests that a sustainable solution is found to Venezuela’s political and economic crisis. The economic projections do not seem to suggest that solutions are imminent with the Maduro regime.”
“From this perspective, it appears to be in Caricom’s interest to explore more nuanced positions that prioritise the well-being of the Venezuelan people,” the institute said.
Maduro Open to Mediation
Nicolas Maduro has said he is open to talks with his opponents in “Trinidad and Tobago or wherever.” In a speech to members of the Venezuelan diplomatic corps at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, on Monday, Maduro said his administration was “establishing contact with governments who offered to mediate.
“As I said to the Caribbean Prime Ministers today. They were in New York. They met with the UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres. I spoke with all of them at length during the afternoon. I spoke with Evo Morales (President of Bolivia). We are also establishing contact with governments who offered to mediate dialogue and I told them I am ready once again in Venezuela or in Trinidad and Tobago or wherever to begin a round of conversations, dialogue, negotiations, with all of the Venezuelan opposition when and where they want them.”